What Is Considered Reckless Driving in Virginia: A Comprehensive Guide

What is Virginia’s Reckless Driving Law?

what is reckless driving in va

Reckless driving in Virginia encompasses a wide variety of offenses and for the first-time ticket-holder for a reckless driving offense, you may be surprised at what exactly is considered reckless driving.

The first and most unexpected part of reckless driving, especially for out-of-state drivers, is the reckless-driving-by-speed statute.

Virginia code, 46.2 862 says that if you’re driving at any speed over 85 mph or more than 20 mph over the speed limit in any zone, then you’re considered to be reckless driving.

That’s surprising because to most people this is just a regular speeding ticket. It’s not a serious reckless driving offense in a lot of states to be going only 20 miles over the speed limit. It is also surprising because in some areas of Virginia the interstate speed limit is now 70 mph so you could get a reckless driving ticket for going 81 in a 70 zone. That is only 11 mph over the speed limit. There have been several attempts by legislators to change the reckless driving statute due to this increase in the speed limit; however, those attempts have failed and so the law remains.

Another surprising form of reckless driving in Virginia is for failing to maintain control of your vehicle under Virginia code 46.2 853. That statute says that it is reckless driving for anyone to fail to maintain proper control of their vehicle or to drive a vehicle with improperly adjusted brakes.

What does that mean?

The failure to maintain control statute is used in many cases where it’s a single-vehicle accident or the officer simply can’t pinpoint a more specific cause for the accident. If you have a vehicle that simply goes out of control and hits another car a lot of times the driver will end up charged with reckless driving failure to maintain control. It’s kind of used as a sort of catchall statute in that regard.

Also, it’s surprising to many people when they have a single-vehicle accident and they’re issued a reckless driving failure to maintain a control ticket. Many people don’t consider that to be reckless driving if you just go off the road by yourself and don’t hit anyone else; however, in Virginia, that is considered a reckless driving charge.

If you have a single-vehicle accident we have a strong argument to win the case if the Commonwealth can’t prove what exactly happened; however, you usually will start off with a reckless driving ticket.

As you can see reckless driving in Virginia encompasses a lot of different statutes and these are only two of the 12 different versions of reckless driving in our state. If you’re charged with reckless driving in Virginia you definitely need to learn more about the specific charge that you’re facing and consult with me.

I am a local, experienced traffic attorney who regularly handles reckless driving cases in the court in question.

Recent Case Result: Client Wrongfully Accused of Reckless Driving for an Accident

(Cases depend upon unique facts. Past cases do not guarantee future outcomes.)

THE STORY: Jill contacted me with a serious reckless driving accident ticket. Jill is an immigrant to the United States, and she was concerned about what a conviction could mean for her immigration status.

Jill maintained that she was struck from behind while driving safely. The trooper believed that Jill simply lost control of her vehicle, and then she was struck from behind. In speaking to Jill, I realized that there was likely a language barrier where the trooper could not have effectively communicated with her on the side of the road.

We plead not guilty in court, and I cross-examined the trooper and other drivers. I argued to the judge that there was reasonable doubt about what precisely happened. I argued that Jill’s version of the accident was plausible and that the other driver may have caused the entire accident himself.

CASE OUTCOME: DISMISSED! The judge found there was reasonable doubt that Jill drove recklessly, and Jill was found not guilty!

Examples of Reckless Driving

If you’re still unsure of what’s considered reckless driving, some examples may help. While speeding leads to the most reckless driving charges, other behaviors create risk as well. Here are some examples of reckless driving charges against Virginia drivers:

  • Running a red light,
  • Racing,
  • Running from law enforcement,
  • Texting while driving,
  • Weaving through traffic, and
  • Passing across a solid highway line.

Many of these behaviors could receive traffic citations other than reckless driving. Because there is some discretion given to prosecutors when it comes to charging decisions, you need a skilled defense attorney to advocate for your charges to be reduced.

Reckless Driving Penalties

A charge of reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries these penalties:

  • A maximum fine of $2,500,
  • Six DMV points,
  • Up to 12 months in jail, and
  • A driver license suspended for up to 12 months.

If reckless driving caused someone’s death, penalties can increase. You can lose your license for up to a year and serve up to five years in prison. Some circumstances, such as racing, can bring even longer prison time.

Reckless Driving Defenses

In representing thousands of clients charged with reckless driving, I’ve learned defenses most likely to get a charge reduced or dismissed. Here are some defenses that may work for your case:

  • Radar had incorrect calibration;
  • Your speedometer was inaccurate;
  • You faced an emergency; or
  • You have a good driving record.

After discussing your experience with you, I investigate to see whether any of these defenses apply. I will assert your best defense with the goal of getting your reckless driving charge reduced or dismissed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Criminal Penalties For A Reckless Driving Virginia First Offense?

Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia law. It can even be a Class 6 felony, depending on the circumstances of your reckless driving charge.
Both offenses can result in a monetary fine, driver’s license suspension, and jail time.

Virginia law allows for a maximum jail sentence of 12 months for misdemeanor reckless driving and five years for felony reckless driving.

The minimum fine for a Class 1 misdemeanor and a Class 6 felony for reckless driving in Virginia is $2,500. A judge can either reduce or increase that fine depending on the circumstances of your case and driving history.

If you are convicted of a first-time reckless driving offense in Virginia, you could lose your license for a maximum of six months.

Also, in Virginia, you will receive six points on your Virginia driver’s license for reckless driving.

Unfortunately, any points you receive for any driving ticket or conviction stay on your driving record for two years.

What Are Other Penalties For First Offense Reckless Driving Charges?

Your insurance rates will probably go up if you have a record of reckless driving. Some insurance companies could even cancel your insurance policy.

Depending on the circumstances of your reckless driving charge, a conviction could result in a criminal record.

It’s impossible to expunge convictions in Virginia, so your criminal record could negatively impact a background check.

If you have a driving job (or hope to drive part-time for Uber or Lyft), a reckless driving conviction could cause severe problems with your work. Some employers will not hire drivers with reckless driving convictions.

What Happens When You Go to Court for Reckless Driving in Virginia?

You might be wondering what happens when a first-time reckless driving defendant has to go to court. Going to court can be stressful.

Having an experienced reckless driving defense lawyer can help relieve your anxiety. Talk with your attorney well before your court date so you know what to expect when you get there.

You and your lawyer can also discuss your options for your first court appearance.

Typically at your first appearance, the court will inform you of your charges and ask you for a plea. Your lawyer will discuss which plea you should enter at that time.

If you plead not guilty, your trial might happen right then and there. Many reckless driving cases in Virginia are resolved in one single court appearance.

In more serious cases, the court treats your first-time appearance as arraignment and schedules your case for a later trial date.

If you plead not guilty and decide you’d rather not have a trial, you can still plead guilty any time before the judge sentences you.

If you have a trial, you are free if you win your case. However, a guilty finding means the judge has the discretion to sentence you up to the maximum penalty.

What Is the Penalty for Reckless Driving in Virginia?

You may be wondering, what is the penalty for reckless driving in Virginia? Reckless driving in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year.

The fine for reckless driving can be no more than $2,500. A judge would have the discretion to forgo the fine or give you a smaller fine depending upon the mitigation you and your attorney can put forth.

There are instances where reckless driving could result in a felony conviction. You face a Class 6 felony and up to five years in prison if you kill another person while driving recklessly on a suspended license.

Can You Go to Jail for a Reckless Driving Ticket in Virginia?

As we discussed above, you could go to jail even if it is your first time getting charged with reckless driving.

Your chances of going to jail increase dramatically if you are charged with a super high speed, such as over 100 mph or going more than 30 mph over the limit.

You can also be at a risk of going to jail if you caused an accident that severely injured another person.

What Happens if You Plead Guilty to Reckless Driving in Virginia?

We have discussed the criminal penalties you face if you plead guilty to reckless driving in Virginia. But there are additional collateral consequences you need to be aware of.

A conviction for reckless driving in Virginia puts points on your driving record. Reckless driving is a six-point violation, which remains on your Virginia driving history for 11 years.

You will almost surely see a huge increase in your insurance premiums as well.

If you are not a citizen of the United States, you could also face immigration consequences, for which you would need to speak with an immigration lawyer.

VIDEO: What is Considered Reckless Driving in Virginia?

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

To give yourself the best chance of avoiding harsh reckless driving penalties, you should hire an experienced traffic defense attorney. At Andrew Flusche, Attorney at Law, PLC, I focus on helping clients who have been charged with traffic violations and misdemeanors. In fact, I wrote the book on how to defend against reckless driving charges.

My goal for every client is:

  • Get the charge reduced or dismissed;
  • Save the client as much money as possible; and
  • Prevent the charge from negatively impacting the client’s life.

If you were charged with reckless driving, you should contact me as soon as possible. I can answer your questions like: What is reckless driving? and How can I get this charge dismissed? Then I can work with you to present a persuasive defense.

We must start working on a valid defense before your court date. Contact me today to get started on your reckless driving defense.

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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